Soundproofing is a “word” of honor for anyone who appreciates silence. If you work at home or work night shifts and the only time you get to sleep is during the day, well, you and I can agree nothing is more irritating than unwanted noise. It could be noise from your neighbors or probably noise (Television, stereo) from other rooms in your house.
Do you know what mostly affects the success of any soundproofing project? The soundproofing material you use. In this article, I’m going to review in detail the most affordable sound dampening materials you use for any sound insulation project.
Basic Soundproofing Principles
Before I dig deeper into my review of best soundproofing material, it’s important to get to know the key soundproofing principles. Understanding the physics of sound transfer and the four principles will help understand the type of noise insulation material you need.
Heavy solid materials will block sound. If you want to block airborne sounds, such as people conversing loudly next door, adding mass is the more effective approach. You can attach Mass Loaded Vinyl on the walls or rearrange furniture to the walls. On the other hand, adding mass won’t be effective when dealing with impact noise- such as bass noise or other low-frequency sounds that cause structures to vibrate.
If you’re dealing with low-frequency sounds such as bass from a neighbor, you will need to use sound damping compounds. Products such as dampened drywall, acoustic caulk, and green glue are some of the best sound damping materials. Most of car sound deadening products uses this principle.
What happens is that a damping compound is applied between two stiff materials (for example green glue applied between two sheets of drywall to create a dampened drywall). The damping compound converts vibrations into heat, and hence vibrations from one sheet aren’t transferred to the next.
Decoupling is best implemented to a structure during the construction phase or remodeling phase. It’s technically referred to separating two sides of a wall hence making it hard for sound to travel through from vibrations. Resilient channels are the best materials for decoupling your drywall. They are also effective in dealing with low frequency/bass sounds and can reduce impact noise.
Absorption doesn’t as effective as other methods above but does have some effects in soundproofing. Acoustic absorption refers to a process in which a material takes in (absorbs) sound energy from sound waves. Some good examples of sound absorption materials include Acoustic Partitions, Acoustic Foam. Acoustic Mineral Wool, Sound Absorbing Underlayment, and many others.
The above four soundproofing principles work independently, but they could also complement each other. This means you can use a combination for the best soundproofing.
DIY Soundproofing Materials Review
1. Soundproof Blankets
Have you ever heard of soundproofing blankets? In other words, these are moving blankets. I’m sure you’ve seen moving companies use these blankets to wrap your furniture when packing in their truck. Moving blankets are made of heavy materials that make them capable of sound absorption. You’ve probably seen them in recording studios lined on the walls. Today, companies have designed soundproof blankets (soundproofing sheets) for soundproofing.
Sound absorption blankets are made of thicker, heavier, and stronger materials that make them efficient in soundproofing than common moving blankets. Soundproof blankets come with grommets one unique feature that distinguishes them from moving blankets. You can use noise reducing blankets to soundproof a door, wall or soundproof your bathroom.
2. Noise Reducing Curtains
Soundproof curtains use same principles as soundproof blankets in noise reduction. The only key difference is that blackout curtains are designed for windows and are aesthetically appealing than soundproof blankets. They are made of thick materials and are also thicker than your typical window curtains. With soundproof curtains, you will not only reduce the amount of noise coming through the window, but you will also be able to blackout your room. You can block sunlight from your room. Here are 15 Noise Reducing Curtains Reviews
Both soundproof curtains and blankets are best for use in a rented apartment where the landlord doesn’t allow major structural changes to the rented unit. Additionally, if you doubt your handyman skill or don’t want to go extreme in soundproofing, you can use these two materials.
3. Soundproof paint and sprays
Did you know that you can reduce external noise using a simple soundproof paint? I know that some of your friends can convince you that this is just a product designed to mince money from unsuspecting homeowners. That’s not the case. Soundproofing paint will only work if there isn’t a “threatening” serious noise problem. If you have a serious noise problem, this isn’t the product for you. However, if you want to reduce noise to manageable levels and have no serious sound problem, then this is the right product for you.
A sound deadening paint contains latex. We all know that latex is a form of rubber and rubber is often used in soundproofing projects. The latex contained in the paint is capable of sealing small cracks on the walls similarly as a silicon caulk.
4. Weather stripping tape
Weather stripping is commonly used to prevent dust, rainwater, and wind from getting through external doors and windows. Did you know that you can use weather stripping tape to soundproof a door or a window?
Doors and windows often leak noise through the small gaps that exist on these structures. There are three types of weather stripping tapes:
- Foam weatherstripping – you can stick it on your window or door sash, the window or door will firmly compress after closing hence creating an airtight seal. It’s durable and will last you for years.
- V weatherstrip – is made from v-shaped plastics and it’s often used on windows. They are more designed to prevent damp than outside noise.
- Felt weather strip – are installed on a window or door sash so that when the window or door closes, it’s compressed into place creating an airtight seal. It’s one of the best options, but it doesn’t last long compared to foam weatherstrips.
5. Resilient Channels
Resilient channels are one of my best soundproofing material you can find on the market today. They are installed between drywall and your house wall. This is what happens: a resilient channel is tightly fixed to the timber frame, and then the drywall is firmly fixed to the resilient channel.
Resilient channels are designed to weaken any sound waves traveling through it thanks to the long micro channels through which sound waves travel. You can use resilient channels to sound dampen your walls and ceilings, and they work pretty well when used with plasterboards and drywall.
6. Acoustic Foam
Acoustic foams are commonly found in pro recording studios thanks to the efficiency in improving acoustics. Well, they don’t soundproof a room but instead, improve a room’s acoustics. If you have a home recording, I would highly recommend you to grab a couple of the acoustic foams and pin them on your wall. You only need to pin them on the walls, no technical installations skills required. Acoustic foams use the same concept as green glue in that they dissipate sound waves into heat. To get the best soundproofing, it’s important that you combine Acoustic foam with other soundproofing methods.
7. Mass loaded vinyl sound barrier
The rule of thumb when it comes to soundproofing is that, the more mass, the better soundproofing. Mass loaded vinyl also known as a limp mass barrier is the ultimate soundproofing material for adding mass to the floors, your walls, and ceiling. The material is fairly thin and also flexible but does an excellent job in sound absorption.
Adding mass will block sound rather than reflecting it and mass loaded vinyl does a good job in sound blocking. You can use this product to soundproof air ducts, soundproof pipes and build window plugs. You can hang mass loaded vinyl sound barrier in your home recording studio to block sound from leaking out and this way you won’t receive noise complaints from your neighbors. The best part is that mass loaded vinyl will not only prevent sound from going through a wall, but it will also reduce reverberations, echo and improve a room’s acoustics.
8. Sound proof insulation foam
Sound proof insulation foam is specially designed for ceilings, walls, floors and other internal spaces in a house. Sound absorption foam should be installed without over packing it; otherwise, the air pockets inside will compress affecting its efficiency. The insulation foam creates a drum effect and prevents sound from echoing within the walls or floors.
Before purchasing, I would recommend you to get high-quality sound insulation foam. Getting cheaper options will give you disappointing results. The best soundproof insulation foam is the Rockwool Sound Insulation Foam. I’ve used it in a couple of my home DIY noise proofing projects, and professionals also recommend it. This product is made of mineral wool thus its denser compared to other typical insulation foams. Additionally, the product can withstand high temperatures up to 1000°C and adheres to all building regulations set by the authorities.
9. Resilient sound isolation clips
Resilient sound isolation clips work to use the same soundproofing principle as their cousin’s resilient channels. These sound isolation clips will enable you to decouple the wall so that each surface of the wall vibrates separately hence resulting in fewer vibrations traveling on either side of the wall. Resilient sound isolation clips can be easily screwed into a ceiling joist or wall, and they are partially or wholly made of rubber material to minimize the sound energy transferred. They are easier to install compared to resilient channels.
Resilient sound clips help reduce sound from your noisy neighbors through your ceiling, walls or floor assemblies. Actual field study test conducted showed that resilient clips can improve existing walls soundproofing efficiency by reducing sound leaked up to 8-10 decibels.
10. Soundproofing board
Soundproofing boards come in different shapes and sizes depending on the manufacturer. But the fact remains that a soundproofing board will either be a mass loaded vinyl that’s sandwiched by two layers of acoustic plasterboard or it will be a thick rubber laminate board.
I would recommend you to use a soundproofing board on brick party walls shared with a noisy neighbor. The installation process is simple, simply screw the board to your wall and cover the entire wall from ceiling to floor. The soundproof board will absorb all vibrations. If you’re sharing an apartment or you’ve subleased your apartment, and your noisy roommate lives next room, you can use a soundproofing board to reduce noise. You only need a screwdriver, a drill and plasterboard saw to cut the board into sizes. You might need a helping hand screwing soundproofing board near the ceiling.
11. Green glue sealant
Green glue sealant isn’t the typical glue you find on the market. It’s a sound damping material and works best when installed between two hard surfaces. You can apply it to drywall or plywood then attach it to the existing wall for effective soundproofing. What green glue does is that it converts sound waves/ sound vibrations through a solid wall or ceiling into heat. The heat generates, in this case, is negligible and won’t burn down your house. The best part is that you don’t need to use screws unlike other soundproofing compounds as it serves as an adhesive as well.
You can use green glue sealing compound to attach a layer of acoustic foams to your walls or even add another layer of drywall to your existing walls. Its efficiency increases especially if you use it to fuse two soundproofing drywall. Green glue is available in various shapes and sizes from 28-ounce tubes to 5-gallon buckets. If green glue compound isn’t available in your locality, you can use these green glue alternatives.
12. Acoustic caulk
Acoustical caulk also known as the acoustical sealant is designed to be permanently flexible, unlike ordinary caulk. Caulks that harden after application are not ideal for soundproofing because they eventually crack leaving your walls, ceiling, doors or windows prone against sound leakage. Acoustical caulks, on the other hand, remain flexible for years hence protecting your structures from unwanted noise. This acoustic sealant should be applied between two soundproofing materials, for example between two adjacent soundproofing drywalls or joints between the walls and the ceiling or floor. You can also apply it on windows, recessed lighting, electrical boxes, and doors.
You should apply it generously rather than sparingly for effectiveness. If choosing an expensive acoustic sealant will make you apply it sparingly, I would recommend you to choose a cheaper acoustic sealant and apply it generously.
13. Soundproof Wallpaper
Does soundproof wallpaper work? Well, this is one of the many questions soundproofing enthusiasts often ask me. I discussed in details about soundproof wallpaper and how they work in my previous article. (Check the link). But in this section, I’ll brush off a little bit to help you understand how these wallpapers work.
What makes soundproofing wallpaper effective is the fact that it’s not made of ordinary paper, but rather it’s made of layers of materials designed for sound absorption. Some of these materials used to make soundproof wallpapers include latex or acoustic panels. The outer layer is made to look like an ordinary home wallpaper to add some aesthetic appeal.
14. Drywall and Drywall
Drywall also is known as plasterboard, wallboard, or gypsum board is effective in dampening vibrations caused by sound waves as they travel through walls. It’s an effective and yet cheap source of mass, and as we know it, mass is a primary key in soundproofing. It is an efficient soundproofing material.
Damped drywall, on the other hand, uses sound dampening layers; some good examples include Suppress, SilentFX, and Quietrock. It’s highly effective in soundproofing. You can also create damped drywall by simply applying a damping compound like green glue between two layers of regular drywall.
Experts argue that a single layer of dampened drywall blocks sounds eight times than a single layer of ordinary drywall. So instead of using a layer of drywall alone, I’d recommend you to dampen it using sound dampening sealants for improved efficiency.
15. Acoustic seal threshold
Acoustic seal threshold is one of the best door soundproofing products you can use. They are inexpensive but can make a big difference. If there’s a gap that exists beneath your door, you can use an acoustic seal threshold not only to prevent airborne sound from getting inside but also prevent dust and small crawling insects from gaining access to your house.
Acoustic thresholds are different compared to ordinary thresholds. They are much wider than typical ones and have a rubber seal down the middle.
How to install a soundproof acoustic threshold
- Get rid of your old threshold. Use a hammer to remove the nails
- Place the acoustic threshold and ensure that your door can close and the gap is completely sealed.
- Now screw or nail the threshold
However, if you don’t want to create a trip hazard, you can call an expert and have an automatic door bottom installed. They automatically draw back up when the door is open and drop down the door is closed.
16. Soundproof window insulation kit
A Soundproofing window kit is used to block out annoying noises coming through the windows. What I like the most about a soundproof window insulation kit is the fact that it can be easily installed and removed for cleaning purpose. If you know how to use a simple screwdriver, then installing this soundproof window kit won’t take much of your time.
It can cover 48×48 inches and its better than soundproof curtains/blackout curtains because it allows light through the windows and for the best soundproofing results and if you don’t mind “blackout” condition I would recommend you to use a window kit and soundproof curtains at the same time.
17. Bass Traps
Also known as Corner Bass Traps, Superchunk Bass Traps, corner bass traps acoustic energy absorbers specifically designed to dampen low-frequency sounds. You will find bass traps in mastering rooms, recording studios or home theaters and in rooms designed to offer critical listening environment. Want to learn how to build corner bass traps? Read this article I wrote. They typically convert sound energy into heat through friction. There are two main types of bass traps; resonant bass traps and porous bass traps. Here’s an article I wrote to help you get a better understanding of how each works.
A good example of soundproofing bass traps is the Mybecca Acoustic Foam Bass Trap. It’s made of high-quality foam, and it’s also available in bundles of 2, 4 and eight so you can find the best one for your soundproofing need.
The name says it all. QuietRock is a brand name, a company that builds sound reducing drywalls and other products that reduce vibrations and sound. Some soundproofing materials by QuietRock brand include QuietGlue Pro, QuietRock Panels, QuietSeal Pro and many others.
19. Soundproof underlayment
There are two main types of underlayment: Resilient Underlayment and Solid Underlayment.
Resilient underlayment is effective in dealing with impact noise such as furniture scrapping the floor, footsteps or dropped items. But if impact noise isn’t your problem, you shouldn’t use this method. Most common resilient underlayment materials include cork, rubber, foam, and fiber.
On the other hand, solid underlayment is effective for soundproofing against airborne noise such as people conversing. A good example of floor underlayment material to prevent airborne noise is Mass Loaded Vinyl.
Noise reducing floor underlayment is often used to reduce footfall noise and other noises from the floor above. One product you can use to reduce floor noise is the Roberts 70-193A Wood and Laminate Floor Underlayment. You can use it on laminate, concrete, bamboo, and hardwood floors. You can use this underlayment for any floor. This underlayment uses the fourth soundproofing principle; absorption. It’s cost-effective and can reduce unwanted noise to manageable levels. Other soundproofing underlayment includes a carpet. But remember that you should only use a thick carpet like the Safavieh Hudson Shag Carpet